Lying on my bed with my mind running a million miles per hour, my agitations made it impossible to find the rest my body needed so badly. The agitated exhaustion I suffered from since I had first come down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was unbearable.
If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia, then you’re likely to have experienced agitated exhaustion firsthand.
Erica Verrillo and Lauren Gellman explain the term in their book Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide. “[Agitated exhaustion] is often described as a ‘tired and wired’ feeling. A person with this type of fatigue does not feel sleepy, although the desire for rest is overwhelming.”
Agitated exhaustion filled my life with terror. My mind was occupied by thoughts such as, “Damn it. This is hell on earth. I need to get out of this.” I was worried that my girlfriend would leave me. My worst concern was that no matter what I did I would never be able to enjoy life again and that I would eventually end up committing suicide, filling my family’s hearts with deep sorrow.
Before I had I suffered from agitated exhaustion, I would have just lay down and deeply rested when I was tired, but now I was haunted by a million thoughts that made me feel worse. Trying to distract myself by reading didn’t work either: prior to coming down with ME/CFS reading would have calmed me and infused me with a sense of peaceful magic, but now the thought of picking up a book alone was enough to worsen my mental exhaustion.
Do You Sometimes Feel As If There Is No Way Out?
Perhaps you feel as I did. You just don’t know how to get out of the vicious cycle of agitated exhaustion. Just like I was, you may be longing for rest and healing – but it seems as if there is no way out.
I did not feel like there was much hope, but even in my despair I kept up the search. It was on the Phoenix Rising site that I read about the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Programme which promised to give me the tools and inspiration to accelerate my recovery from ME/CFS employing my mind and emotions. I couldn’t possibly imagine that it would work, but since Phoenix Rising’s Cort Johnson shared his positive experiences of the program on his blog, I decided to give it a try.
The Teachings in the Program Were Radical, and So Were My Results.
I have to be honest, at the time I tried the program I was thinking, “I can control the thoughts that occupy my mind and whether they make me calm or agitated? No way!” But as I had promised myself, I gave the program a wholehearted try.
Even after committing, I couldn’t help but think, “I will feel better by utilizing some psycho woo-woo tool? No way! But I tried the tool and couldn’t believe the relief I felt. It eased my agitation and had me feel better than I had felt in months. My experience was, indeed, profound.
Four Easy Steps to Escaping Agitated Exhaustion
But I also want to help you right now, in this moment. The four easy steps I’ll share with you are a simplified version of a technique you will learn in the Amygdala Retraining Program. Although they are not as powerful as the complete Amygdala Retraining Programme, my hope is that they will still offer you relief.
Step 1: Identify What Causes Your Despair
Ask yourself: “What is one negative thought that’s occupying my mind in this moment?” Examples of negative thoughts include thoughts of:
- Fear: “I’ll never be healthy and happy again.”
- Blaming: “I can’t believe my friend hasn’t called me since I got sick. I thought he was a better person than that.”
- Shaming: “I’m worthless. I’ll never be able to work or help anyone.”
How do you recognize negative thoughts? A negative thought is any thought that is based on fear. Conversely, thoughts based on love are usually positive. A thought’s weight also reveals its nature. Thoughts that feel light are positive; thoughts that feel heavy are negative.
When I first began to identify negative thoughts, I had thoughts such as: “My body is broken,” and, “I’ll never feel better.” These thoughts felt dark and weighed on me heavily.
Step 2: Deliberately Stop the Negativity
Firmly and kindly say out loud, “Stop!” Say it as if you were telling a beautiful horse standing in front of you to back up. Speak firmly and confidently, yet with love. If you like, use your hands to emphasize/strengthen the meaning of your words.
When I first began to stop my negative thoughts, I had the powerful guidance of Ashok Gupta in his Amygdala Retraining Programme. I remember how I lay on my back to listen to the instructions but got up to do this step of the process. I had a hunch (or was it just hope?) that this exercise could change my life. Using my arms and hands to emphasize my words, I firmly said: “Stop.” I knew I did it right because after only a few times of doing it, I already felt a little better.
Step 3: Inhale Health and Happiness
Smile a big smile and take a slow, deep breath in. Smiling really shifts our energy and thoughts—even if we don’t feel like smiling. Go ahead and try it. Right now, ask your face to come up with the biggest grin the world has ever seen of you – Yeah, that’s what I mean
I put the biggest smile on my face that I could muster and inhaled slowly. I realized that I was looking out the 2nd floor window and saw people walk by on the city street below me. If they had seen me, they’d have thought I was crazy. I didn’t care – all I cared about was getting better.
Step 4: Enter the Healing Zone
Remember something or someone you love. Really bring the memory alive. What is the image associated with the memory of love? What are the colors, the smell, and the sound associated with your memory? Feel love rising up inside your body as you breathe out slowly and lovingly.
To enter the healing zone, I evoked in myself memories of my mother and my brother from Germany, and the garden of my parents in law in the Sonoma Wine country. The thought of my mother infused me with love. The thought of my brother walking next to me on a vibrant summer day in my in-law’s garden evoked in me a feeling of health and happiness.
Now, put the technique I explained in steps 1) through 4) into practice. That’s how you will experience its power. Do as many run-throughs of the technique as it takes to completely eliminate your negative thought. (It usually, takes three to ten times).
If you don’t want to do ten run-throughs, just do one. Doing one run-through now can still change your life.
Enjoy the peace and happiness naturally coming to you as you let go of the negative thoughts. Applied daily, stopping your negative thoughts by going through the four simple steps of this technique can give you your life back.
Over to You
What do you think? Leave a comment under this post to share your experience of engaging in the technique. Please also do ask any questions you may have; I’ll be sure to answer.
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© Johannes Starke 2012